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Emirates chief too threatens retaliation

Emirates Airline President Tim Clark said Tuesday that if the U.S. were to void its open skies policy on aviation traffic rights, then antitrust immunity granted to some U.S. and European airlines to coordinate trans-Atlantic flying would also have to disappear.

“If you have an open skies regime, you can get [antitrust immunity, or ATI]. If you shut down open skies, ATI has to go out because you are creating a competitive imbalance the likes of which the aviation world has never seen,” Mr. Clark said.

Airlines such as American Airlines Group Inc. and British Airways, or Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM SA have won regulatory approval to closely coordinate schedules and pricing on trans-Atlantic flights. Those have helped deliver strong profits on those routes that have been key to the improving financial situation of the airlines.

Several of the U.S. carriers as well as Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Air France-KLM are leaning on governments to restrict market access to Emirates Airline and its Mideast neighbors Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways they accuse of receiving unfair state backing. The Persian Gulf carriers deny the charge.

Mr. Clark also said Emirates would soon produce its rebuttal to the accusation the airline is subsidized. “I’m hoping the document we are about to produce will put this to bed once and for all,” he said. He offered to open the airline’s books to the U.S. government to demonstrate it is not subsidized.

Mr. Clark said Emirates had created a huge amount of value from a modest start. The airline would be worth up to $120 billion if it were floated, though there are no plans for a public offering.

Further growth also remains in Emirates’s plan. The airline could double its size once the new Dubai World Central airport is fully operational.

More near term, Mr. Clark said he is in talks with European discount carrier EasyJet PLC about working together. He wouldn’t detail the exact nature of the talks, though the Luton, England-based discount carrier could provide feeder traffic to Emirates long-haul flights. The two already operate from the same airports in some areas, including London Gatwick and Milan, Italy.-WSJ